Lion Capital Makes Bid for Picard Surgeles

UPDATE: An agreement has been announced

LONDON (Reuters) – Lion Capital made a pre-emptive bid over the weekend to buy French convenience-food company Picard Surgeles from rival buyout firm BC Partners, two people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

Lion’s offer, which is likely to place an enterprise value of 1.5 billion euros ($1.94 billion) or more on the business, was designed to head off rivals Bain Capital, CVC [CVC.UL], and LBO France, who were also working on binding bids for the company, the people added.

BC and Lion declined to comment.

The offer comes a week after Lion lost out in the race to acquire Unilever Plc / NV’s (ULVR.L) (UNc.AS) Italian frozen-foods unit, Findus Italy.

Instead, Birds Eye Iglo, a unit of rival buyout house Permira [PERM.UL], bought Findus Italy for 805 million euros.

Picard sells high-end frozen food, operating more than 800 stores in France and generating 1.15 billion euros in revenue last year. It aims to expand further in France, build on a small presence in Italy, and move into Scandinavia and Belgium.

Earlier this month bankers told Reuters Loan Pricing Corp. that Picard has earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of about 160 million euros.

The business has already been owned by private equity for nearly a decade. Candover (CDI.L) led a 2001 buyout from majority owner Carrefour SA (CARR.PA), and three years later BC took over in a deal that valued Picard at 1.3 billion euros.

Buyout firms are lining up several food-industry deals. Blackstone and PAI Partners are considering selling United Biscuits for at least 2 billion pounds and PAI says it is open to offers for its half stake in Yoplait, the yoghurt maker.

By Quentin Webb and Victoria Howley


(Editing by Steve Slater and Louise Heavens)